The Role of Race in American Politics: Lessons Learned from the 2008 Presidential Election

Thierry Devos

in The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199735204
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894581 | DOI:

Series: Series in Political Psychology

The Role of Race in American Politics: Lessons Learned from the 2008 Presidential Election

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Despite the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, the scientific literature reveals that race and racial attitudes continue to shape how political candidates are perceived and voting behavior. This chapter discusses the multiple ways in which racial attitudes and identity play aubiquitous role in American politics. Blatant expressions of resentments, fears, or concerns for group interests have declined, but research on symbolic racism suggest that lingering racial biases account for affective and cognitive responses to political candidates and social policies. Today, racial prejudices operate largely at an automatic or unconscious level. In addition, the prevalence of egalitarian principles and an increasingly multicultural societal context have fostered more complex racial stereotypes and categorizations. Finally, the election of Barack Obama may produce paradoxical effects on political attitudes that underscore the challenges of overcoming racial divisions and oppression.

Keywords: voting; racial attitude; racial identity; symbolic racism; political candidate; political attitude; social policy; automatic prejudice; unconscious prejudice; stereotype

Chapter.  11345 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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